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Thursday, September 6, 2018

X-amining X-Factor #104

"Malicious"
July 1994

In a Nutshell
Polaris battles a Malice-possessed Havok.

Plot: JM DeMatteis & Dezago
Script: Todd Dezago
Penciler: Jan Duursema
Inker: Al Milgrom
Lettering: Starking/Comicraft
Colorist: Glynis Oliver
Editor: Bob Harras
Editor-in-Chief: Tom DeFalco

Plot
In control of Havok's body, Malice attacks Polaris, hoping to kill her before Mr. Sinister can force the pair to re-bond. Meanwhile, Strong Guy reconnects with an old flame in his hometown of Rhinebeck, only to discover her feelings for him aren't as deep as his are for her. Back in Hawaii, Polaris manages to contain the Malice-possessed Havok in a metal shell. In Rhinebeck, Wolfsbane comforts Strong Guy's young cousin, who is worried about being a mutant, as well as a heartbroken Strong Guy. In Hawaii, Polaris discovers a dazed Beatrice Conners, Malice's previous host, just as Malice breaks free. Malice grabs Conners and tells Polaris if she doesn't let Malice kill her, Conners will die. In DC, Val Cooper tries to call in Quicksilver to help Havok & Polaris, but when he is unavailable, she picks up Strong Guy & Wolfsbane in Rhinebeck, cutting their vacation short. In Hawaii, Polaris agrees to Malice's terms, but just as Malice is about to finish her off, Mr. Sinister & the Nasty Boys arrive, telling Malice if she kills Polaris, her misery will only be all the more sinister.

Firsts and Other Notables
Mr. Sinister, drawn a bit Stroman-esque (presumably a nod to his appearances in the early issues of the All New X-Factor) pops up at the very end, setting up the next issue. He is accompanied by the Nasty Boys, his latest group of superpowered henchmen who, with the exception of Slab, have only ever appeared in this series (Slab presumably escaped or was rescued after being captured along with his sister Thumeblina and the rest of Stryfe’s MLF during “X-Cutioner’s Song”).


Mr. Sinister, per Malice, wants Polaris for breeding stock, and he wants Malice to bond with her again, while Malice would rather Polaris die than posses her again.


Malice, for her part, says she was using the possessed Beatrice Connors to kill Polaris via "sanction and protocol", so as not to attract Mr. Sinister’s attention to her efforts.


After hearing reports of Havok & Polaris’ fight, unable to reach anyone else, Val contacts Quicksilver, calling him X-Factor’s reserve member. And while this is is last appearance in this iteration of the series (and his last appearance in an X-book until "Onslaught"), making his whole reserve status kinda pointless, it’s still appreciated that DeMatteis took the time to recognize his protracted absence, since he just sort of disappeared from this series between issues (due to events in other books).


Quicksilver is unable to help out due to events in Avengers #375, which the end of the long-running Gatherers saga (and the end to the Harris/Epting run).

A Work in Progress
Malice says it was “months” ago that Polaris was possessed (in Uncanny X-Men #219), another recent “vague time stamp” that seems way too short, even within the confines of the sliding timeline.

Discovering the un-possessed Conners on her doorstep, Polaris realizes Malice possessed her months ago at a conference on the Magneto Protocols, making her responsible for all the attacks on Polaris for the last ten issues or so.

The Grim 'n' Gritty 90s
Guido does that thing where he tells a character he’s been thinking about their past together, then tells that character about their shared past as if they weren’t there, just in case someone who wasn’t there might be listening in...

Young Love
Guido tries to start something up with a girl in his hometown he dated as a kid, after meeting her in the hospital (following the first manifestation of his powers). But while he’s looking for something serious (akin to Alex & Lorna), it turns out Mary doesn’t feel the same way, having realized she could do better.

It's in the Mail
Letters asking if Random is going to officially join the team have become the new “when is Quicksilver getting an official X-Factor uniform?” letters.

Austin's Analysis
This is basically an issue long fight between Polaris and a Malice-possessed Havok, and that's fine. This series has been light on the action of late, and DeMatteis & DeZago balance things out with some legitimately sad Strong Guy material (plus an appreciated check-in establishing Quicksilver's status with the team). Plus, the action gains a little something from being built on Polaris' past history: Malice returning should be a big deal for Polaris; DeMatteis & Dezago succeed in selling that idea. Having older bits of continuity pop up is one of the things that helps the X-books feel like they're part of an extended, ongoing narrative, so when something like the relatively long period of time in which Polaris was possessed by Malice and operating as a villain gets dusted off to be used as an engine for a current story, it's always appreciated, and helps elevate the otherwise-standard issue-long fight.

Next Issue<
Tomorrow, Wolverine reunites with some old friends in Wolverine #83. Next week, X-Men #34 and X-Force #36.

7 comments:

  1. Yessss... look at that beautiful next issue blurb on the final page posted above! There's something like five or six different fonts mixed up in there. That is the Comicraft I love! The Comicraft I need! The Comicraft I wish still lettered Marvel comics today!

    I can't wait until the main two X-books start looking like that, since those are the title I'm reading along with your posts.

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    1. That next-issue blurb is too overdone by half — well, maybe just a third — for my taste, Matt, but I sure appreciate your enthusiasm. And there’s a lot of Comicraft work that I admire in the era shortly to come, mid-to-late ’90s, from recap pages to lettercols to overall book design. I only got a few of the Masterworks editions they did and in retrospect wish it had been a lot more — not just because they’re apparently going for a premium these days, either.

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    2. I do agree, Blam -- the blurb is definitely overdone. But it's a precursor of what Comicraft would become within the next couple years, with a bit of refinement. Definitely by the late 90s, they would tone down the garishness quite a bit and their work would look pretty nice.

      I'm of mixed feelings on those Comicraft Masterworks. On one hand, they fit the Silver Age aesthetic of early Marvel, but on the other, they don't really exemplify the stuffy scholarliness that Marvel tries to go for (for whatever reason) with those volumes. They definitely look really nice, though.

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    3. Yeah, I get that. And I nearly referenced the Essentials or the Golden Age of Marvel Comics TPB designed by JG Roshell instead. When the Comicraft Masterworks appeared I don’t think the hardcovers had used internal numbering before — only the overarching numbering as volumes within the entire Masterworks line (relegated to variant editions now) — and that bugged me from the start. The first editions to fix that were, I believe, some meh-looking softcovers. I freely admit that my timeline could be messed up, but the fact remains that Comicraft’s fresh take spurred my desire to start picking up Masterworks again. Numbering scheme aside, I don’t think the Masterworks line was in as dire need of reworking as the Essentials, whose original editions had a host of problems that extended to editorial and basic quality control. What Roshell did there was less busy, although I had occasion to pull that Golden Age of Marvel Comics TPB off the shelf recently and just kind-of basked in its tasteful orgy of neo-retro typography for a spell.

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  2. Slab and Thumbilina escaped in XFACTOR right before X-Cutioners Song when the MLF rescued them and Mr Sinister picked him from their base.

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    Replies
    1. Slab is still hanging out with the MLF in "X-Cutioner's Song", though: Thumbelina laments to him that Dragoness is her only friend in the group when Dragoness gets knocked out in X-MEN #15.

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  3. Lorna’s drawn nearly as jacked as when she got all borderline Hulk after Zaladane stole her magnetism.

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